The chair and its enemies
By Alberto Mingardi
This article won’t come as a surprise to those, among our readers, that are partisans of standing desks (quite a few of them, I suppose, in the US, not so many in Europe). This piece by Sara Hendren, abstracted from her book What Can a Body Do? How We Meet the Built World, presents interesting arguments against the chair. “Sitting for hours and hours can weaken your back and core muscles, pinch the nerves of your rear end and constrain the flow of blood that your body needs for peak energy and attention. Most people’s bodies are largely unsuited to extended periods in these structures”. If the chair is an old invention, the widespread use of it is a rather new thing, “for most of human history, a mix of postures was the norm for a body meeting the world”.
In part the article stresses the fact that a “chair-and-table culture” is actually a recent thing, basically a byproduct of our industrial society with its factory and its office, and thus our body has difficulties to cope with it.
In part the article builds on Victor Papanek’s polemic against industrial design and the search for design virtuosism, rather than comfort, and the emergence of “universal design”.
The conflict between beautiful and convenient is older than contemporary design, which seems to me has solved it better than most. Anyway, fascinating.